Ferris Bueller had crossed my mind. There were some obvious parallels to the movie. Like Ferris, my son is a spirited, upbeat boy who loves a good time. And, also like Ferris, his coming-of-age story featured the ruination of an extremely valuable car. He had taken a four-foot, 500 horsepower ride to manhood.
We had a hard call to make. Would it be grounding for life? Let it go? Something in between? Will was a teenage boy. One of the world's hottest cars had been sitting in our garage, calling to him like the sirens of Homer's Odyssey. He had a friend to show off for. Will had taken the key, intending to turn on the stereo and navigation system, only to inadvertently fire up an engine that could launch the car to 100 km/h in just over three seconds. He didn't know how to drive a standard. The outcome had been written in bent metal.
A lawyer friend who has known Will since he was 11 called me at the office. He was laughing so hard that he cried. In his view, Will had made a standard teenage mistake that happened to involve an expensive car. "He's a great kid," he said. "Give him a break."
As I saw it, raising our boy was a lot like training a horse. I didn't want to break his spirit and turn him into a pit pony. Neither did I want him to become El Diablo. I hoped he would end up as Secretariat - a disciplined champion.
My wife and I decided that Will would have to repay our insurance deductibles and discount losses by getting a summer job. The total would be about $750. Porsche's deductible on the car was $10,000. I offered to pay it. Mr. Bye said no.
I woke up the next morning sick to my stomach. I was the car journalist whose son had trashed a brand new Porsche Turbo. That wasn't good. And I was still weighing my son's punishment. I looked in my inbox. There was an e-mail from Mr. Bye. It was a picture of a Porsche executive standing in the Siberian desert with a bandage wrapped around his head. Behind him was a new Porsche Cayenne, completely destroyed after a high-speed crash, its components littered across the sand.
Mr. Bye had provided some perspective - and some heart. Porsche is a large corporation. They would not be happy about the trashing of their expensive car. But they had sucked it up and tried to make my son and I feel better. Mr. Bye's gesture reminded me of a story about Frank Sinatra's handling of a home disaster. When Frank's daughter Nancy was young, she hosted a party at his house. On a table was a pair of priceless crystal birds. Suddenly there was a crash, and the room fell silent - one of Nancy's friends had knocked one of the birds off the table, destroying it.
All eyes turned to Sinatra, the legendary Chairman of the Board. Sinatra stood silent for a moment. Then he swept the second bird off the table with the back of his hand. It exploded on the floor like a high-priced crystal grenade.
"Don't worry about it," Sinatra announced.
- My son has agreed to do a minimum of one week's labour for Mr. Bye
- Initial body shop estimate for the 2010 Porsche Turbo - $11,000 plus taxes.
- My garage door was replaced last week, along with the door tracks, opener and door frame. I spent seven hours working alongside the installer. Total cost was $2,700. My insurance deductible was $500. I lose my no-claims insurance discount for three years.
- Later this summer, based on his schedule, my son will attend Apex driving school, where he will be trained in advanced car control and learn to drive a standard transmission.
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